Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wood Working Wednesdays - Turning a Figured Maple Bowl

Because life on the farm isn't busy enough...I decided several years ago that I wanted to add woodworking to my resume. I started off with rolling pins because I figured how could one mess up a basic rolling pin. Well let me tell can mess up a basic rolling pin!

Over the course of the past few years I've been honing my "craft." I put craft in quotation marks because honestly...I'm still shocked every time something comes off my lathe and someone purchases it. I guess its something that every artisan goes through when they first start making things to sell. We all hear the ever so common lines..."I could get this at *Insert Store Name* for 1/4 of that price." Or..."If I buy more than one of these, can I get a bulk discount?" Or the best one is when they have a friend near them and they ask, "Would you be able to make this for me? Here...let me take a picture so you can see what I want."

All of these things slowly chip away at an artisans soul. I don't think people truly understand what goes into making anything. I don't care if you can jams/jellies, sew quilts, crochet/knit items, hook rugs or make things out of wood...we all have heard any number or combination of those lines. And it's hard to keep your head up, it's hard not to say something snarky, it's hard not to pack up your things and just stop making things all together.

Over the past year I've learned that there will always be those who want things, but don't want to pay the price. There will always be those people who don't fully understand the time that it takes to create these items, or the tools you had to purchase...or just the basic cost of the materials. I've learned that I need to be proud of the items I make. Of course I see the flaws, but the person who chooses to buy it only sees this work of art that is handmade. I try to focus on those things, but the doubt always creeps in.

Recently I ventured into the world of turning bowls. Now I am by no means a master bowl turner...far from it if truth be told! But I'm truly having fun with this process.

Last December I took a class offered through the Woodcraft store in Seattle, taught by Captain Jack. Jack has been turning for 20+ years and you can just hear the passion in his voice. It was a day and a half long class, cost me an arm and a leg...but I walked away with a beautiful maple bowl and a maple mallet.

After leaving that class I set forth to buy the correct tools I needed in order to start on my new journey...ummm...and cost me an arm and a leg! Seriously folks...I don't want to even tell you how much money I have invested in crochet hooks, wood working tools, equipment and materials. But I'm proud to say that all of this money comes from the sales I make through the B.P. Farms Etsy Store! So it's thanks to all of you that I'm able to continue doing this!

After purchasing the tools, I decided it was time to turn my very first bowl in MY shop! I would love to say that I walked into the shop, put the Padauk bowl blank on my lathe and turned the most beautiful bowl that afternoon. But I can't say that. What I can say is that I nearly shit my pants several times because for some reason I couldn't remember the correct way to hold the knife (lathe tools are called knives) and while attempting to hollow out the inside of the bowl it caught (more than once) and the bowl went flying off the lathe. Imagine a piece of wood spinning 1000+ RPM...catching on a tool and flying off in your general direction. You'd more than likely almost shit your pants too. Be honest!

Well I decided to take a few weeks break and work on some other projects. But during that time I set up a time with Captain Jack to have him teach me how to properly sharpen my knives and again go over the proper techniques to turn the bowls. I also watched about 976 YouTube videos, watching each of them to see how to properly hold the knives for each cut. And after building up my courage I went back into the shop and turned not only that first bowl...but two others! there is the back story on how I am where I'm currently at with my wood working! And I'm happy that you are able to now see it!

So shall we officially move on to what I hope will be a somewhat regular thing? "Wood Working Wednesdays"...a series of posts where I'll talk about what I'm working on in the shop and showing you the process it takes to get from start to finish with what ever it is I am featuring that day!

Today's item is a Figured Maple Bowl! I can honestly say that today it was fun just getting into the shop with the intention of turning this bowl for this post. Of course the entire time trying to get the camera set up to take the pictures and then awkwardly stand with my arms around the tripod or trying not to let my head or big ol' belly get into the frame. I'm sure that if anyone were to be looking through the window they'd wonder if I'd taken my meds for the day or not. ;) But I digress.

Onto the bowl!

After sharpening my knives I grabbed one of the three figured maple bowl blanks off the counter and set to work. To start this entire process you clearly need a piece of wood. Most of the ones I find at local stores are actually square pieces of wood, and the easiest way to start is to use the band saw to take the corners off. This makes it a bit easier to turn and get into a rough round shape. But luckily these maple ones were already rounded off. The first step today was to find the approximate center of the blank and attach the faceplate. The faceplate is what will hold the bowl on the headstock of the lathe. Once the faceplate is attached its put on the headstock and the tail stock is pushed up against the other side to help stabilize the blank. Then it's time to rock!

Now it's time to get to work. When I turned on the lathe there was a pretty good vibration because the blank isn't completely round, and lets be honest...I didn't get the face plate in the center. So the first few cuts are made to even out the blank before shaping. I learned to turn a bowl by starting with the outside, finishing it completely, before hollowing out the inside.

So I set to work on shaping the bottom curve of the bowl, getting the shape on the sides and then putting in a tenon on the bottom that the chuck can hold onto in order to hollow out the inside.

These first few cuts are to even up the outer edge.

Now it's time to shape the bottom.

Shaping the sides.

Here is the tenon. Notice the cool knots and holes in the wood!

After the desired shape is's time to sand. Now there are some wood turners who are able to make beautiful cuts that require little to no sanding...I, however, need to sand. HAHA. But I'm okay with that. I have to remind myself that this bowl is only the 5th bowl I've ever turned. So it's on to sanding. I start with 60 grit, using a piece that I hold. Then it's onto the little sander increasing the grit up to 300+. I use this because unlike hand sanding, this won't leave the lines in the wood. Once it's all sanded, I grab a handful of the wood shavings to buff the bowl. This little trick I learned in the class! It's awesome! Then its time to oil the bowl. I use Doctor's Woodshop Walnut Finishing Oil. I apply 7 - 10 coats of  make sure it's soaking into the wood. Then I finish it with Doctor's Woodshop Microcrystal Wax Bowl Finish. This is friction applying it while on the lathe heats up the wax and creates a nice finish.

Now it's time to take the bowl off the lathe, remove the faceplate and attach it to the chuck. This will allow me to hollow out the inside of the bowl.

Turning the inside of the bowl is where I got into trouble I still have a little bit of trepidation when starting. But once those curled shavings start flying...the smile returns to my face and I watch as the inside starts to disappear while the final shape continually gets closer!

You start in the center, slowly working your way to the outer edge.

One of the things I still struggle with is getting the thickness correct. Its important to have the same thickness throughout the sides and bottom of the bowl otherwise it can cause the wood to crack in the future. So I spend a fair bit of time going over the sides and that bottom curve.

But once all that is's time to sand and oil the inside of the bowl. And its the same process that is used on the outside. Start with 60 grit...move on to the higher grits using the handheld sander...and then apply the oil and the wax!

I love that knot in the bottom!!
The bowl is *almost* finished!

Next I get to use what looks more like a torture device...hahaha. It's actually a type of jaws that hold a turned bowl...allowing you to get rid of the bottom tenon. I don't have a separate chuck for I have to take off the small jaws used to hold the tenon...and attach these bigger ones. Get the little rubber holders in the right spot...then put the bowl on. I always put a paper towel down first so the rubber stops don't mark up the bowl.

Once the bowl is on...then its time to get rid of the tenon. Then it's time to sand and oil!

And there we have it! A finished bowl. As you can see there are a LOT of steps. But once you get them goes smoothly. When I was making the previous batch of bowls I completed each phase on each bowl before moving onto the next phase. By that I mean I turned/sanded/oiled the outsides of each bowl...then moved onto turning/sanding/oiling the insides...and then removed the tenon on all of them. That way I wasn't constantly changing the chuck out.

One of the things I love most about working with wood is how you never know what the finished product will look like. While I knew there'd be that beautiful "splotch" in the grain on the outside of the bowl...I didn't know that there would be that cool knot in the bottom. And while turning, you can either choose to cut past those things...or make them part of the finished product. :) So this bowl won't be able to be used to hold liquid...but it'll still be a beautiful piece to show.

So what do you think? Is the process easier or harder than you thought? Do you understand why I charge what I do for my products? I didn't even tell  you the price of all the tools I needed to purchase just to start turning the bowls! That's on top of the original cost of the lathe and the chuck (which I had for turning rolling pins).

Thanks for joining me on this little bowl turning journey! I look forward to getting more bowl blanks and continuing to turn different pieces for you all to enjoy!

Until next time...Keep Cookin'!

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